Pakistan: who is behind Baluchistan terror?

With all eyes on the Tribal Areas, the insurgency in Pakistan’s bordering Baluchistan province continues. A roadside bomb wounded seven security personnel and two passers-by in Mastung district July 15. (AP, July 15) On July 4, an eight-year-old beggar was killed when a bomb attached to a motorcycle exploded at a crowded market in Quetta, Baluchistan’s capital. “The blast killed an eight-year-old girl and injured her beggar mother who were sitting near the motorcycle parked by some unknown man,” a police official said. (AFP, July 4)

Few commentators have noted that there are Baluch insurgencies in both Pakistan and Iran, as the international border bisects their territory. In yet another exegesis based overwhelmingly on anonymous sources in the New Yorker July 7, “Preparing the Battlefield,” Seymour Hersh claims that the CIA and Pentagon Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), following a secret presidential Finding, have been conducting covert missions deep into Iran for the past several months—including in support of Baluch and Ahwazi Arab ethnic insurgents. (Of course, WW4 Report has been arguing that same thing, based merely on a close reading of the regional media.) Hersh raises the appropriate if predictable caveats:

The Administration may have been willing to rely on dissident organizations in Iran even when there was reason to believe that the groups had operated against American interests in the past. The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. “The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda,” Baer told me. “These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers—in this case, it’s Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we’re once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties.” Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists. [Links added.]

Yet he fails to ask the obvious question of whether the Baluch militants the US is backing in Iran are in turn backing the Baluch militants in US ally Pakistan. In fact, he fails to even note the existence of Pakistan’s Baluch insurgency.

Hersh does have some tentative good news indicating deep opposition even within the administration to military action against Iran:

A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preĂ«mptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.” Gates’s comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates’s answer, the senator told me, was “Let’s just say that I’m here speaking for myself.” (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator’s characterization.)

Let’s hope Hersh’s source is right on that one. See our last posts on Iran, Pakistan and Baluchistan.